What is religious freedom?

Religious freedom is the freedom to practice a personal belief. No one should be forced to do anything that goes against their desire/wishes/beliefs. But religious freedom does not mean imposing one’s beliefs on others. Neither does it mean practicing something that negatively affects others. For example, if someone is against gay marriage, they should be not forced to get “gay-married”. If someone is against contraception, they should not be forced to use contraception. But that does not mean that those people have the right to impose their beliefs on society. Because that might go against the beliefs of others.

Slavery and racial inequality was justified under the pretext of religion. But our society has gone past that. It was once acceptable for a private business to discriminate against minorities because of their beliefs. But their beliefs went against human equality and the Civil Rights Act ended discrimination in places that served the general public. Today, religion is again used to discriminate against the LGBT community. No one is forcing a religious person to become gay, neither is anyone forcing a religious leader to perform a gay marriage.

Yet discrimination still exists. Catholic hospitals have the right to deny contraception. If someone is against contraception, it doesn’t give them the right to deny it others. Catholic hospitals do not choose their patients based on religion. They are a public sphere and they serve the general public. They do not have the right to impose their beliefs on their patients. If it is okay for a church, a temple, or a mosque to deny someone contraception, would it be okay for me to deny a Christian, a Hindu, or a Muslim food if I own a restaurant, or medicine if I own a pharmacy? It would be not. I would be charged with religious discrimination. ┬áIn the same way, it is religious discrimination and intolerance when a religious institution or an individual imposes their personal beliefs on others – whether it is racial equality, gender equality, different sexual orientation, or the right to marry the one you love. Religious freedom is the freedom to practice your beliefs in your personal life – not in the lives of your spouse, your children, your siblings, your community, your society, or your nation. Because then you transgress on the freedom of others. And that to me is religious intolerance.

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